Vulnerable children protected as part of efforts to tackle county lines drug dealing
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Measures have been put in place to safeguard two vulnerable children as part of efforts by Proactive CID to tackle county lines drug dealing in Warwickshire.
County lines is where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries, usually using vulnerable people coerced by gangs.
In Stratford on Wednesday (5 October), officers carrying out targeted county lines patrols in Stratford spotted a teenage boy who had been reported missing from the West Midlands and who is believed to be at risk of exploitation.
On Thursday, while searching a house in Leamington officers found a teenage girl who they believe was being exploited by drug gangs.
In both cases the children were returned home and safeguarding measures put in place with the help of Children’s Services.
Detective Sergeant Sarah Wolsey from Proactive CID said: “Much of the media coverage on tackling county lines understandably focuses on arrests, drug seizures and raids. However, from a policing point of view, protecting vulnerable people is equally as important.
“The exploitation of vulnerable children is a common feature in county lines drug supply. They are often exposed to physical, mental and sexual abuse, and in some cases will be trafficked a long way from home as part of a network’s drug dealing business.
“Last week alone in the south of the county we put measures in place to safeguard two children we believe are being exploited by drug gangs, thereby reducing their exposure to further exploitation and cutting off a supply line for dealers.
“Unfortunately, these gangs will find more children to exploit. The children involved don’t see themselves as victims or realise they have been groomed into a life of crime. This is why it is important we are all aware of the signs of exploitation and report any concerns to police.”
Signs that a child is being exploited include:
Changes in behaviour
Access to several phones
Unexplained expensive gifts (such as clothes, trainers and cash)
Travelling alone to places far away from home
Receiving more messages than usual
Carrying or selling drugs
Hanging out with older people
Being more reserved
If you have any suspicions you can let police know at www.warwickshire.police.uk/report or by calling 101. Alternatively, information can be provided anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.